Edmonton based singer-songwriter Ben Sures has played numerous folk festivals, mostly in Western Canada. He is the sort of excellent host and workshop participant who is up for anything. Ben has won a handful of songwriting honours including both the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the International Songwriting Contest.
He is a past contributor on CBC’s The Irrelevant Show, The Round Up, Madly Off In All Directions, Morningside and more. He has toured the UK and performed in Beirut. As an accompanist, Ben has played guitar for Paul Reddick, Rita Chiarelli, The Wyrd Sisters, Ferron and others. As a solo act he has shared the stage with folks like Ray Davies, The Preservation Hall Band, Alejandro Escobedo, Garnet Rogers, Greg Brown, Lynn Miles and many more.
What brings you all the way down the yellow brick road to St. John’s NL?
My partner Shauna is a figure skating coach and is attending a conference here in Newfoundland. I jumped at the opportunity to come for a week and I thought it would be great to do my inaugural Newfoundland gig the same time.
You have been on a tour now for a little while. Anything new and interesting happen this time around?
I have this song called ‘Used to Have A Raygun’ and people have started showing up giving me their homemade versions of Rayguns, t shirts, drawings etc. on a recent tour a guy gave me a version that was made of his old satellite internet dish. Pretty awesome.
Many writers start with a guitar pattern, a chord progression or rhythm while some start with a lyrical idea that dictates the mood and then the music follows. Do you subscribe to one of these?
I am led by the story, I think about a story I have heard or something I want to write about and that often bounces around in my head til i get a twist or or an angle. Then I sit down and start singing ideas so that they produce organically with the other ideas. Then I edit the words and in most cases continue to walk around with these ideas and songs in my head.
Do you have a favourite topic?
I like the small stories that don’t really resonate til you hear them back. I wouldn’t say I have favourites but I like good stories that have their basis in fact. That show you the everyday part of a person that ends up being the thing that made them special. For example Ron Hynes’ song ‘Sawchuk’; the snippets of his family life, his relationship with his brother leading to what he became. I have a song about a five year old first Nations kid who walked backward through the snow and hid in the bush so he didn’t have to go to residential school. I love all kinds of topics.
Who would be your dream collaborator or producer?
I would love to have an album produced by Ian Lefeuvre who produced Lynn Miles best sounding records. He does this thing where he emphasizes the character of people’s voices and the instruments rather than just trying to get good clear sounds, it’s really cool. my dream for years was to work with Miles Wilkinson and I have been working with him lately since he moved to Edmonton from Nashville.
Who are you listening to right now?
I have been touring with satellite radio so I have been listening to Willie Nelson’s channel which features a lot of older country artists, I love the songs and the sounds of that.
What do you do when on the road to get comfortable in a new town or venue?
I am always most comfortable in strange places and strange venues. I can sleep anywhere and I like new places and people so the trick for me is getting comfortable when I get home as I can’t get away with reinventing myself, ha!
Thanks for the chat. Anything else you would like to add?
Looking forward to singing at the ship. I know it is steeped in music history. I look forward to hearing my songs bounce off its deep music-rooted walls!
Ben Sures will be playing Sunday night May 22nd (9pm) at the Ship Pub with Kalem Mahoney of the Monday Nights.
Article by Jerry Stamp